Port Angeles Lefties catcher Ronnie Rust eyes home plate before scoring against the Yakima Valley Pippins in 2018. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Angeles Lefties catcher Ronnie Rust eyes home plate before scoring against the Yakima Valley Pippins in 2018. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

PORT ANGELES LEFTIES: Team returns several players from last year

PORT ANGELES — Last season’s Port Angeles Lefties set the West Coast League’s single-season home run record by the all-star break and a handful were hailed as heroes after rescuing a woman from a burning car while on a road trip in Canada.

There’s no way to know if the third season in Port Angeles will produce similar Herculean home run blasts or acts of heroism, but Lefties fans will begin to find out when the season’s first pitch is thrown tonight.

As with every season, the team’s roster will be a work-in-progress with more players joining the team as their school and college season calendars wrap up.

“We’ll be a little short staffed for the first few games as we get more guys in,” Lefties co-owner Matt Acker said.

So who are the guys the North Olympic Peninsula will rally around this summer?

There are plenty of returners, including some players Port Angeles manager Darren Westergard also coaches at Skagit Valley.

“We have a handful of guys coming back and that will be good because they know the town, the fans, the area,” Westergard said.

“It’s good to have guys like [Trevor] Rosenberg, [Ronnie] Rust, [Baxter] Halligan and [Tyler] Tan back this season and I’m looking froward to seeing what they do,” Westergard said.

“Having kids return makes the transition easier for the new guys. You can show them the ropes.”

Halligan, Tan and Rust all played for Skagit Valley.

“Baxter had a great year, I think he went 6-1 on the mound and hit .330,” Westergard said. “He still hasn’t committed yet, but Stetson, Oklahoma, Houston, a lot of the schools that we have kids coming from are interested in him, so this summer will have a lot to do with it [finding a four-year school to play for].”

“Baxter played a corner outfield position for us and pitched. He’s likely to come out of the bullpen when we need him and he needs to hit. Schools want him to be a two-way guy.”

Tan logged a lot of innings for Skagit this spring, so his outings will likely be in relief, Westergard said.

Ronnie Rust, a talented player who has had some of the worst injury luck imaginable, also returns as a catcher/outfielder.

“He battled injuries again and got cleared to play about a month ago,” Westergard said. “It’s been like Groundhog Day for him, unfortunately. I feel horrible for him. He’s a really good guy and a great athlete. I’ve told him, you are a Ferrari and if I have a Ferrari, I’m going to want to drive it, so he’ll get playing time.”

Another returner, Alabama-native Matthew Christian, is playing in the NCAA Regional Round with his Campbell University Tigers.

A former Lefties opponent, Sequim’s Evan Hurn, will play for Port Angeles this summer.

Hurn, a Sequim High School and Wilder Baseball Club product, played his junior year for NCAA Division I Marshall University in West Virginia this spring.

Hurn previously played for the Bellingham Bells in 2017 while attending Edmonds Community College.

“We’ve got guys from Stetson, Purdue, Houston, got Tulane back, there’s guys from all over,” Westergard said.

“It will be a good mix. Last year we were really reminded that pitching and defense wins games. It was great to have the home run record broken before the all-star game, but it’s nice to mix in pitching and defense and win a few of those games where we score 10-plus runs.”

Westergard said the 2018 team was built with more pitching talent in mind, but had a number of pitchers whose plans changed before ever playing in Port Angeles.

“Our roster is kinda flip-flopped from 2018,” Westergard said. “We lost pitchers to the [MLB] draft, summer school or injuries before last season, but we didn’t lose any position players. The only people we lost were arms and that ended up kind of biting us in the butt.”

“This year we have 21 arms coming in and 13 position players.

“We should have plenty of arms to make it through the season and more arms are coming in mid-June. Some of the other guys we have are playing in NCAA Regionals or the playoffs in lower divisions.”

Westergard is excited to see one of his team’s younger players, catcher Tommy Takayoshi. Takayoshi is a senior at Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma and will play for Purdue this fall.

He is the son of Todd Takayoshi, a minor league hitting coach in the Cincinnati Red organization.

Westergard expects Matthew [Marty] Boissoneault, another returning Lefty, to bond with Takayoshi this summer.

“It’s a similar situation as Marty last summer,” Westergard said. “He was a senior catcher going into Seattle U and Tommy is a senior catcher heading into Purdue.

“So we think getting those two together will be good. Marty can help him out with the transition.”

Westergard is looking forward to his second summer in Port Angeles. He’ll be joined again by hitting coach Trevor Podratz.

“I feel good about it,” Westergard said. “I’ve known Matt Acker for a long time, we coached against each other for ever, it was good to get back and reconnect with Matt on a coaching level last summer.

“He’s done a great job over there, the town has been awesome, so let’s see if we can put together a new group and go out and win a title.”

Port Angeles Lefties catcher Ronnie Rust eyes home plate before scoring against the Yakima Valley Pippins in 2018. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Angeles Lefties catcher Ronnie Rust eyes home plate before scoring against the Yakima Valley Pippins in 2018. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

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